Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently addressed the Indian Diaspora Sydney and said cricket unites the bond between India and Australia. “Cricket is something which has kept us connected for ages…and now tennis and movies form other connecting bridges… Our lifestyles may be different but now Yoga also connects us, said Modi, to a roaring 21,000-strong crowd at the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, one of the city’s biggest indoor stadiums.
Joseph Nye, a former Former United States Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs introduced the concept of “soft power” in the late 1980s. For Nye, power is the ability to influence the behavior of others to get the outcomes you want. Soft power is the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion. Soft power is the ability to influence the behavior of others to get the outcomes you want.
Prime Minister Modi understands the importance of this Soft Power when he travels outside India. He minces no words when he openly admits that Sports is a power that can capture the Worlds attention to India. In 2018, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the heads of 52 other countries that India would train 30 boys and 30 girls under the age of 16 every year with the help of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The offer was widely welcomed, officials said
In February 2019, India sent modern cricket legends Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh to represent Air India to play at the India-Maldives Cricket Friendship Series 2019 – a game overseen by Maldives President Ibrahim Solih. Later that year, the Speaker of Maldives Parliament Mohammad Nasheed, said during a visit to India that it was Indian cricket great and former team manager Ajit Wadekar who had taught him cricket.
China too has invested in trying to project a soft image of itself as a peaceful rising power. Many western observers were in thrall of so-called Chinese success in enhancing its brand value across the globe, but especially in Asia — with its Confucius Institutes, extravagant Olympics displays with a whopping 263 gold medals till date at the Summer Olympics, the highest in Asia, and rhetoric of a peaceful rise.
That’s where lessons from Qatar’s World Cup also kicks in. Before the tournament kicked off, a former FIFA secretary general even predicted that after the final game, “everyone will have forgotten” Qatar’s labor rights abuses.
“Saudi Arabia is stepping into the breach of neoliberalism, which is nowadays the common ‘software’ of a vast network of decision-makers at the global level. Through sport, it wants to speak to the powerful and gain trustworthiness among the business elites, which used to see the country as backward and archaic”, says Raphaël Le Magoariec, a researcher and expert in the geopolitics of Gulf’s sports.
But for India, the whole soft power formula works differently. We have the largest diaspora population tantamounting to a 32 million in number, ranking them at no 45 in the World Population rank index. They have the ability to influence the behavior of the countries they live in to get the desired outcomes that India wants !!! Focussing on them and their needs and satisfying their sports aspirations perhaps would be far easier and go a long way in achieving what other nations have to ‘sweat’ out through sports in their own countries.
A Global Pravasi Sports League is on the agenda and should be on ground shortly in a year so crucial for Modi s ‘Democracy’, ‘Diaspora’, ‘Dosti’ journey!